Mutts: What’s Their Story?

When people say that a dog is a “mutt”, it means that the dog is not a purebred. The genetics can be so mixed that you can hardly pinpoint a breed associated with it, and they are often considered an “average” dog because they may or may not possess the specific characteristics  expected of a purebred dog. Although this is basically correct, there is much more to their story.

The Purebred Story

As of today, there are 339 dog breeds that are recognized by the World Canine Organization, more commonly known by its French name, the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (or FCI for short). These purebred dogs have then been classified according to their origins, function, size, shape, and several other distinct characteristics. These dogs have been grouped into ten categories based on these characteristics.

A good example of a purebred King Charles Spaniel.

Within nine of those ten categories, almost ninety percent of dog breeds have only appeared in the last hundred years. Dog breeds are actually more man-made than one would expect. Basically, the creation of distinct dog breeds was a form of genetic manipulation in order to produce a dog with a certain set of traits such as temperament, appearance, and more. In order to maintain the characteristics of a desired breed, the dangerous practice of inbreeding was introduced and thus, the population of certain dog breeds began to increase. This breeding was done by matching dogs with desirable traits to see what the offspring would be. Dogs with certain desirable characteristics  resulted in them being named “pure breed”.

Fortunately, kennel clubs are now properly regulated. Back when this trend started becoming popular, these “purebred” dogs were maintained through inbreeding to retain their desired traits. This has also resulted in these dogs to being riddled with genetic disorders that still exist today..

Purebred dogs are often predisposed to certain genetic and hereditary diseases and this has become evident with the stark difference in appearance between dogs of the same breeds a hundred years ago as compared to today. For example, the English Bulldog was not as large as they are today. The current purebred look makes their heads disproportionately big, the females need a C-section to give birth, they cannot mate on their own, and according to a survey, the average lifespan is only 6.25. years. Moreover, the Golden Retriever is also more likely to develop cancer than any other breed. All of these health issues can be pinpointed in their genes, typically due to inbreeding.

This Schnauzer could have some serious health issues down the road.

Today, now that people and experts know better, there have been regulations set to ensure there is genetic diversity before a dog can be considered a separate and new breed. However, the desire to have a purebred dog has reinforced the idea that mutts are “lesser” and are often considered undesirable.

Although this is the current situation, most people are drawn to specific breeds based on their look and temperament, and thus, mutts or mixed-breeds are overlooked. More often than not, mutts end up in shelters more than purebred dogs.

The Benefits of “Mutts”

Mixed dog breeds usually end up in dog pounds more frequently just because they aren’t purebred. Sadly, dog pounds get crowded and, the harsh reality is, dogs that don’t get adopted get put down. This is also one of the reasons why many experts encourage adopting a dog from a shelter rather than buying from a pet store or breeder. The other reason is that dogs from pet stores have ambiguous sources for their puppies, meaning some puppies may have come from puppy factories or puppy mills which are horrendous and cruel. To help eradicate these practices, adoption is highly encouraged.

Isn’t this little one precious?! Whether its a purebred or a mutt, its adorable.

If you still have apprehensions in getting yourself a mutt rather than a purebred dog, here are a few reasons on why you should consider adopting one.

They are in their natural, happy state.

Mutts are actually dogs in their healthiest, most natural state, which means, they are what they should be. To put it bluntly, specific dog breeds are not what nature has intended them to be. For most dogs (outside of a few working breeds) the breeds were developed by humans.

Mutts are healthier and often live longer.

Genetic anomalies that could be passed down from one generation to another through inbreeding is eradicated in mutts and mixed breeds. In the theory of evolution, mating outside of their breed and family group ensures healthier offspring that can live longer.  A dog named Pusuke died at the age of 26 years according to the Guinness World Record, almost beating the dog Bluey which held the record of living until the age of 29. Both of these dogs were mutts, with the former being a Shiba Inu mix and the latter being an Australian Cattle Dog mix. Both of these dogs didn’t get to their age by mere luck, but it primarily came with the genes they were endowed with and the loving care of their owners.

The Border Collie mix probably looked quite similar to this one!

Mutts are more adaptable.

Whether you’re looking for a herding dog or a household pet, a mutt is as good as any. According to many studies, a mutt is defined as having at least three different breeds ingrained in the DNA. These dogs can typically function as both working and family dogs (based on their size and ability) due to the vast amount of genetic diversity that they contain. By being so adaptable, it is also known that mutts can often be faster at learning tricks.

They are often smarter.

In line with their adaptability, mutts are chosen as therapy dogs more than purebred dogs because of their more flexible temperament. When a dog is a specific breed, they usually have a certain temperament consistent among them, and they can often be quite energetic and excitable. With mutts, their temperament is more varied.

Adopting a mutt gives way for healthier dogs in the future.

Most genetic related anomalies among dogs can be solved by simply leaving them to breed on their own instead of enforcing strict genetic breeding. When this is encouraged it paves way for a better understanding for people when it comes to dogs and choosing one as a companion. This being said, you should ALWAYS spay or neuter your pet, whether they’re purebred or mixed. The overpopulation of dogs is very real and should not be taken lightly. This is another reason to adopt a dog from a shelter rather than encouraging breeders to continue the overpopulation.

They have so much love to give.

If anything, we could certainly agree that, no matter what breed your dog is, you can expect them to be a loyal companion to you. These dogs that are full of personality can love just as much and just as hard as any other, whether they are purebred or mutts.

When you do decide to get a dog, you will have to prepare for the necessary items to keep you, your household and your dog happy. With general hygiene in mind, a microfiber dog mat such as the Paw Designed Microfiber Pet Dog Bowl Place Mat, dog beds, and grooming tools will significantly lessen the mess that will inevitably reside in your house.

A warm home and loving arms are all a dog really wants.

If you are still wondering if mutts are any good, the answer is simple. It is a definite and resounding yes! These wonderful dogs can love just as hard, are loyal to a fault, and will forever shower you with unconditional love. With that note, what more could you ask for in a dog?

Christy of Doglifestore.com likes to write about whatever tickles her fancy and loves to document the adventures of her fur baby when she’s not busy going gaga over their crazy antics.

Cat Paw Facts & Tips

Aren’t kitty paws so cute?! So little and pink! And they’re attached to your cat who will probably swat at you if you dare lay a finger on their paws. Of course, we just want to fawn over how adorable our snuggly felines are, the cutest little beings in the world, but they may not be willing to share their paws. Who can blame them? Their paws are extremely sensitive, and our hands and feet would be too if we used them to check temperature, groom our hair, hunt for food, and communicate with other humans.

Some adorable kitty “bean” toes!

Their paws are designed to help them jump, run, climb, and pounce, they have four toes on their back paws, and five toes on their front paws. Have you ever wondered why one toe happens to be closer to their wrists than the others? It’s there so your cat can grasp objects (like toys or birds) similar to their humans! Not only do cats have thumbs, but their paws are also the most sensitive part of their bodies. But there are more aspects to your cat’s paws that help with survival, grooming, and more that are important for any cat owner to know.

Paw Facts

  • Just as humans are left or right handed, our cats are too! However, in cats, this difference is because of their gender. In female cats, their dominate front paw is their left, and for males, their dominate paw is their right.
  • Similar to dogs, cat’s only sweat through their paws. Like the skin on our bodies, our cat’s paws act as a cooling system to our body, the only difference is their body area is much smaller than ours.
  • Like humans, out cat’s toes have individual and unique paw prints, and similar to our fingerprints. Even twin kittens will not have identical paw prints.
  • Your cat’s paws are very flexible. Their front paws can bend inward so they can dig their claws into whatever they’re climbing to stable themselves. But when it comes to climbing down from cat trees, bookshelves, or branches, cats can have some problems because their front paws are designed to be used for walking normally or for an upward climb. Climbing down is more difficult for cats than what people often think.

Kitty claws are clearly not designed to help them climb down.

  • Remember the shocks on your car? They’re what absorb the impact from speed bumps, potholes, and the rough roads we drive on the make the drive more comfortable. Our cat’s paws act the same way! This is why our cats can jump from (and sometimes fall from) great heights and they will often be unharmed.
  • Like their whiskers that allow them to spread their scent as markers for their territory, cats do the same with their paws. When you cat scratch objects, they often do so to become sovereigns of that object and give information such as gender to other cats through the pheromones that are spread through their paws from their scent gland which is found between your cat’s toes.
  • Not all cats have pink paws. Some cats have spotted, tan, or black colored paws. The color of their fur is related to the color of their skin and also the color of their paws. For instance, my Calico, Missues, has pink, light tan, and brown spotted paws, Fredrick Douglass has what I refer to as magenta colored paws, and Mr. Baby Kitty is a Bombay, therefore he has naturally black paws.

These adorable paws could have gray, black, or pink toes!

Paw Tips

Our cats will sometimes need help to take care of their paws. Let’s briefly go over a vital truth that should be known to all cat owners. Your cat’s paws should always be clean; there is no excuse for this! Dirty feet can be painful to your cat, and unhealthy substances can stick to their paws or in-between their toes that can end up being ingested when they groom themselves. So if you have a little messy kitty, wipe your cat’s paws with a wet cloth or kitty wipe regularly. Here are some other tips you can practice to help your cat maintain clean and healthy paws.

  • Check for thorns, splinters, or cuts that are on your cat’s paws that can cause discomfort or infections. If there is swelling and you can’t see what could have caused it, you cat could have been bitten by an ant or stepped on a bee. In this case, take your cat your veterinarian right away.
  • Keep cat trees around your home so your cat can regularly scratch and shed their outer nail sheathe to allow for healthier nail growth.
  • Sometimes our cats need their nails trimmed. I’m opposed to having your cat declawed. It takes away their ability to survive on their own and also puts them in a serious amount of pain for a long time. So if you decide to trim your cat’s nails, make sure to massage their paws before you begin so your cat will adjust to your touch and the pressure of your fingertips. Always use cat nail cutters that are made for just cats, not human nail trimmers. ONLY cut off the white tip of their nails and stay away from the vein (mostly called the quick) that runs into the nail. If you hit the quick, serious bleeding can occur. Then give your cat a treat, because your cat deserves it. If you have concerns about trimming their nails yourself, take them to the vet or a groomer so a professional can trim them for you.
  • If you have a long-haired cat, make sure to check their hairy little feet. Sometimes cats have long hair growing between their toes, and this can irritate their paws, tickle them, and it may cause your cat to excessively lick their paws in order to flatten the hair. It is also good to keep this area clear and clean so clumped up cat litter doesn’t tangle in their furry paws.

Hairy toes are no good!

  • We can’t always keep an eye on our cats and we trust them to think and sometimes think before stepping onto cool, hot and wet surfaces. Anything wet may not be water, it could be a cleaning solution or leftover cooking oil on the kitchen counter. If you have an electric stove top, train your kitty to stay off the kitchen counters, and if you happen to use hair styling tools keep your cat away from those too. If you live in an area that snows during the winter, the temperature can numb your cat’s paws. In either hot or cold weather, moisturize them with a lukewarm washcloth to avoid numbing from their paws touching cold patios, or burning from hot sidewalks.
  • If you don’t want your cat to scratch you, you can always put on Nail Caps. They’ve become increasingly more popular among cat owners and cat fanatics around the world. Some disagree with this practice, finding it restrictive to your cat’s natural nature and other find it useful to avoid scratches and some just find it cute. Regardless of the reason you’d want to use them, the Nail Caps are vinyl and are safe for your cat. To put them on you do have to trim the tip of your cat’s claw and place a small dot of the adhesive (that will come with your package of nail caps) into the cap before pressing it onto your cat’s claw. Each nail cap lasts for about four to six weeks until your cat’s claws will be ready to shed with the natural growth of your cat’s nail and will probably fall over naturally. Make sure to check the nail caps weekly in order to check on your cat’s claw growth. Not to mention that nail caps will also protect guests that come into your home and your furniture.

A fashion statement and a protective measure all in one!

  • Get boots or paw protectors for your kitty if they have damaged or sensitive paws when the hot and cold weather comes around.

This information should help keep your cats happy and healthy, as well as expand your knowledge of your beloved feline. We can never know too much about those we love!

Elanda-Isabella Atencio, our Feline Editor, is on her road to being a “crazy” cat lady. She has three cats; a moody Missus, a wild Baby Kitty, and notorious Fredrick Douglass. She was raised with cats, chickens, dogs, and geese. From cleaning coops, morning dog runs, picking eggs, to growing catnip, Elanda enjoys pampering her pets. Elanda is a student at New Mexico State University, earning her BA in Creative Writing and is Editor-in-Chief of the online arts journal, Independent Noise and reader for Puerto del Sol. She plans to move to Oregon, where she hopes to take her cats on daily walks when it’s overcast and cool. If you’d like to contact Elanda, email her at eincatencio@gmail.com.

Three Major Reasons to Feed Your Dog a Home-Cooked Meal

Kibble might look yummy now, but just wait until he sees some home-cooked dog food!

Your beloved four-legged family member, without a doubt, deserves a balanced diet for perfect health. While commercial diets are the favorite for many pet owners, some foods pose the risk of causing harm to the dogs’ health. So, the best course of action would be to feed your dog a healthy, wholesome diet that’s prepared right in your kitchen. However, keep in mind that your homemade dog food recipes must adhere to dog nutrition guidelines. Talk to your vet before diving into making your dog home-cooked meals.

Well, if you’re pondering about why you should consider switching to a home-cooked diet, here are the three major reasons to feed your dog a home cooked meal.

Commercial dog food can lack adequate regulation

Let’s face it, the pet food industry faces minimal substantive regulation regarding quality, and this is, of course, the primary reason pet owners should consider home cooked meals. While there are a good number of agencies navigating several layers of regulation, their rules often fall short of ensuring that the pets receive adequate nutrition. Most of the regulatory agencies do not monitor closely what the private pet food manufacturers put in their products.

And even though certain regulatory codes do exist, things such as absorbability, digestibility, and overall quality of the pet foods are not comprehensively covered. Well, this only means that consumers have no other choice but to believe whatever the manufacturers say, and count on the accuracy of the labels.

It often doesn’t even look like food.

Most dog owners often consult veterinarians to get a few recommendations on the best pet food brands (which is a good idea). The scary part though is that no one knows for a fact that the composition and amount of the different nutrients listed on the labels on the packaging of the pet food is correct.

Even high-end commercial brands out there often use additives, chemical preservatives, flavor enhancers, and also extra fats to make the food more palatable to your dog.

Unfortunately, the food is in the real sense less healthy. You’ll find that some of the foods don’t live up to their marketing claims and may end up causing health problems despite feeding your dog with all the recommended portions.

Better control of your dog’s diet

With a home-cooked meal, it’s a lot easier to reduce uncertainty in regards to quality as you get full control over what goes into your dog’s mouth. You can tailor the food according to the dog’s needs, and if your four-legged friend experiences any health complications, it is easy to trace down the “bad” ingredients and make the necessary changes. Your dog can enjoy having quality protein from a variety of sources and, of course, the right veggies and fruits that are rich in antioxidants or medicinal properties.

As an added advantage, you’ll be able to get the grain out of the home-cooked diet—ensuring it is appropriate for your pet species. Knowing what constitutes biologically correct nutrition for your dog will help you leave out the unnecessary grain. For instance, you should not feed your dog with carbohydrates like grain, corn, wheat, rice, and soy. Why? Well, such grains can lead to indigestion and absorption difficulties, because the canines and felines have no biological grain requirement.

Sorry, pup, no sandwiches for you!

It is best to research and get different homemade dog food recipes for a variety of meals to help you in your cooking.

Save cost

While some pet owners will want to feed their pets with human-grade ingredients, it is unfortunate that they are expensive. There’s a huge disparity regarding the cost and value obtained when you compare a home cooked meal to human-grade ingredients.

A homemade diet allows you to get fresh ingredients, which are readily available in your local market. And the good news is that you can purchase large quantities of meat and vegetables, then prepare, package, and freeze the meals in large batches that are enough to sustain your dog for several days. However, never compromise on the freshness of the ingredients. It is also an excellent idea to pair up with friends who have dogs to share the costs and meal prep tasks among the entire group as it is economical and saves time.

Start feeding your dog a home-cooked meal today for a better overall health!

The key is to discuss the requirements for your pet with your vet before starting.

June is the founder of TobysBone, where she shares her passion for writing and love for dogs. She wants to help you deal with your dog’s behavior issues, grooming and health needs, and proper training. Through her blog, you can find informative and reliable posts, tips and tricks, and a lot of interesting reads that will help you maintain a close bond with your furry companion.

Keeping Everyone Happy During Your Time Apart

Is it stressful for you (or Fido) when you’re away from home for a few hours? Does leaving for work or school in the morning leave Max nervously pacing and whining? Does coming home at the end of the day to shredded bedding or the kitchen trash strewn everywhere leave you exasperated and ready to quit your job?

Whether you’re feeling overwhelming guilt about leaving your best friend alone during the day, or if your furry companion has separation anxiety, there are ways to help you both get through the day stress-free.

“You’re leaving me alone again?”

Here are some tips and tricks for making your time apart peaceful, enjoyable, and positive – for both of you!

Before You Leave:

Set up your dog for success.

The old adage is so true – a tired dog is a good dog! Leave time in your morning routine to take him for a long walk or a run. Give him a chance to explore, sniff, play, and get out his energy. Does he still have a load of energy after some exercise? Purchase a dog backpack and stock the sides with canned goods, dried beans, or a handful of rocks. Strap in on your pup and have him wear it on your morning walk or run. (Of course, check with your veterinarian first to be sure that your dog can handle the load.) Bonus – by carving out time in your morning for tiring out your dog, you’ll work some exercise into your day, too!

Give him a good meal.

Don’t leave him with an empty belly! A hungry dog will only do what comes naturally to him – look for food! Your kitchen or bathroom trash, the cookie jar, and the loaf of bread on the counter look super appealing to a rumbling tummy. Revise your dog’s daily feeding routine to ensure that he’s satisfied before you leave. (And, it goes without saying – always leave a bowl of fresh water available while you’re gone.)

Consistency is key.

Make one space in your home your dog’s “room.” Use the same words each time you leave – “Time to go to your room!” or something similar – and shower him with praise when he follows your command. Great choices for a dog’s room include a spare bedroom or a kitchen with dog gates. (My dog chose her own space – the bathroom! We think she liked the cold tile floor.) In his room, set up a crate with a blanket or bedsheet over the top and leave the door open. A dark and quiet hide-out can be incredibly calming to a nervous dog.

Get to know your pet’s less-than-desirable habits, and ensure that you’ve got your bases covered.

Do you have a shredder on your hands? Confine your dog to the kitchen to spare your couch or that brand-new duvet on your bed. Does he rip apart his own bed? Choose a super-cozy orthopedic Kuranda bed instead of a fluffy bed. Used in animal shelters across the country, Kuranda beds are sturdy, easy to clean and they provide a comfortable place for a dog to rest. (Purchase directly from Kuranda and support your local rescue group at the same time! It’s a no-brainer.) Do you have a reactionary barker? Select a room that is away from street-facing windows to avoid this behavior! And, just about any dog will think the trash or last night’s take out containers to be a treasure just waiting to be discovered. Use child locks to keep your trash (and your dog) safe and keep your counters cleared of any tempting treats.

An example of a Kuranda bed.

Finally, remove your dog’s collar.

By taking his collar off, you’re preventing him from getting it caught on something during the day. Horror stories of tags getting caught between crate wires will haunt any dog owner. It’s always better to be overly cautious. This being said, make sure your pet is microchipped and their collar is put back on as soon as you get home. If they somehow get lose, their collar, tags, and microchip could save their lives.

While You’re Gone:

(*Many of the suggestions provided below involve high-value food, treats and toys. Beware of any territorial behaviors and/or food aggression if you decide to leave two or more pets confined in a space together.)

Frozen bone broth treats.

What could be more delicious to a pup? Place a few pieces of kibble, small training treats, or even frozen peas into each slot of an ice cube tray. Fill up the tray with low-sodium canned or homemade bone broth. Freeze and give your pup a few as you exit. Experiment with different sizes and shapes. Silicone trays are a fun and inexpensive option. By leaving your dog with frozen treats, you’re not only his hero, but you’re ensuring that there’s nothing dangerous left behind to get lodged in his throat.

Buy a rotation of Kong toys

These durable, hard rubber toys provide hours and hours of chewing enjoyment. Even better, they’re hollow! Fill the inside of a Kong with a handful of kibble or desirable treats and stuff it with natural (no added sugar or xylitol) peanut butter. Freeze overnight. This irresistible treat will last and last while you’re running errands or off at work.

Kong toys are nearly indestructible!

Make your own smelly sticks

Have a hardware store nearby? Maybe a Habitat for Humanity Re-Store? Ask them to cut you a few different sized lengths of PVC pipe. Drill small holes here and there along the length of the pipes and put all sorts of interesting and smelly things inside – even things that you might not want your pup to eat. A favorite in my area’s animal shelter is rabbit poop! Once filled, seal up the pipe with PVC end caps. Curious noses will love to explore the scents and roll the pipe all over the house.

Keep their mouths busy

Purchase a ready assortment of strong and durable chew toys. Try to leave your dog with things that won’t break apart or present a danger if shredded. (Those squeaky toys are fun – but are a better choice when someone’s at home to supervise.) Nylabones are a great option. The bones come in all sorts of shapes, textures, and scents.

A great alternative to natural bones that can splinter and injure your dog.

Play soft music.

Choose a local radio station, or hop online and stream music from Spotify or Pandora. Hey, even do something as old-fashioned as playing a CD! Keep the volume low. Studies have shown that music is highly soothing and provides stress relief and results in lower cortisol levels in pets.

Keep everything else up high

Finally, remember that your dog can be just like a small child and get easily bored with the same toys. Keep a box of toys out of reach and change up his options each day.

When You Return:

Make it a calm, yet positive homecoming. You’re excited to return and your pup is so excited to see you. Do your best to keep your emotions in check and make your return home calm. If you have a jumper, avoid a full greeting until he’s stopped. The calmer you are with coming and going, the less anxiety your dog will have going forward.

If something has gone wrong during your absence – an accident on the floor, a shredded pillow or some strewn trash – learn from it and understand that no matter what, at the end of the day, he’s still an animal. Disciplining your dog after the fact won’t serve any purpose other than to make him feel nervous when you come home in the future. Next time you head out, keep the pillows out of reach, keep the trash locked up, and be sure he’s had an ample opportunity to do his business outside.

We all wish we could be with our dogs 24/7, but it just can’t be the case. With positive separations and reward-based reinforcement, you and your pup will feel better about your time apart and value your time together even more.

They will always be your furry BFF.

Finally, remember that doggie daycare at Your Pet Space is a wonderful option for most pups. Your dog will have a fun day with this best friends, and he’ll come home happy, healthy, and will most likely want to spend the rest of the evening relaxing.

Kerrie Leclair

Recognizing Your Cat’s Anxiety and How To Calm Them

Like humans, when cats experience anxiety, it can range from being as serious as having a panic attack or as minor as simple nervousness. Anxiety affects humans on a greater level than what we may be aware of; the same goes for your cat. Let’s address what anxiety is: some believe that it is only a feeling (such as worry, apprehension, fearfulness, perturbation, angst, or tension) that can come and go. In reality, anxiety is a mental health disorder. Despite how some may challenge this idea, it’s a fact. And it’s extremely common, with more than three million cases in the United States per year. As explained above, it is a disorder which is characterized by stress, fear, and worry that is strong enough to interrupt with daily activities. These same feelings can show in your cat and it will affect their ability to live life to their fullest.

This little kitty is not a happy camper.

Detecting Anxiety

The trick about anxiety is that it is not always easy to find the cause of it. It’s hard enough to diagnose in humans, so trying to diagnose it with our pets can be a challenge for veterinarians and behavior specialists. Anxiety can be caused by extremes such as physical and verbal abuse, or by seemingly small things like moving to a new home, separation from their humans, or another addition to the household. A tool that pet owners can use to detect the cause of anxiety is the called the HISS test.

Your cat’s Health is the first thing to look at: emotional, physical, and mental. Your cat may be exhibiting anxious behavior when they aren’t feeling well, but this anxious behavior may not be easy to recognize because cats express their anxiousness through seemingly normal behavior. Grooming, urination, attempting to defecate, and meowing are all normal behaviors, but if your cat is suffering from anxiety, these behaviors will be excessive.

Your cat’s Instincts are almost always present. The term “curiosity killed the cat”  makes much more sense now because cat breeds were literally picked with selective breeding to pass on something that has been named the “caution gene”.

This cat is definitely being very cautious.

Stress. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to realize how stress affects our lives, and it plagues our cat’s ability to live happily because it’s one of the many causes of anxiety. Your cat’s personality will be the main factor of how they deal with stress, but some of the triggers that can affect your cat can include their living conditions, if they have to compete with other cats for affection and love, the changing of climates (especially if you happen to live in the northern hemisphere), and if your cat feels like they have their resources needed to survive like food, water, and a clean cat box.

And lastly look for your cat’s Symptoms in order to recognize signs and solutions that can be made. Watch for hiding, because a happy confident cat will find solace in high spots such as cat trees and book shelves. But a cat that is suffering from anxiety will hide very close to the ground like under beds, inside boxes, behind furniture, and inside closets. Anxious cats will urinate and sometimes defecate outside of their cat boxes, even if it happens to be completely clean. And if your cat starts meowing more often, if it becomes louder, or if they begin crying during odd hours, they are probably signaling to you that they are feeling anxious.

This cat tucked himself away in a corner, showing that he’s anxious about something.

Types of Anxiety

Separation Anxiety is when your cat becomes agitated, stressed, or fearful when they feel like they will be torn from or left by their humans. Again, each cat has an individual personality which makes them more or less responsive to anxiety. For instance our oldest cat, Missues, has the worst separation anxiety out of our three cats. My parents gave her to me when I was eight-years-old and, on every family vacation, she would be our traveling kitty companion. Although most cats don’t do well when they travel, Missues was a champ and she enjoyed the car rides with the windows down while she sat on a pile of blankets smelling the different scents that filled the car. But as she and I both got older, we stopped taking her on trips. I moved out of my parent’s house and took her with me to our new home, but I didn’t take her on trips with me. Unfortunately, this resulted in very bad anxiety for her.

During a month long road trip from New Mexico to New Hampshire, our cat sitter watched Missues, Mr. Baby Kitty, and Fredrick Douglass. However, when we got home, we found that Missues seemed to not have moved from our bed much. She probably missed us and found comfort in our scent coming from the pillows, but we noticed the strong scent of urine. After we bathed her and removed the sheets, we found a deep yellow stain on the mattress that seemed to have spread a bit but was very concentrated. We believe Missues urinated on herself due to the anxiety of us being gone for so long.

“Where are you going? Can I come with you?”

Her most recent anxiety attack happened after she peed on my backpack. My husband placed her in the bathroom to sleep in overnight so she wouldn’t cause any more trouble. Shortly after he put her in the bathroom, I entered to clean her up but found her puking on the floor. The next morning, there was more vomit from her dinner the night before. Our cats, especially those who are VERY close to us, will more than likely become extremely anxious when left alone for either long or short periods of time.

Phobias, however, are when a cat’s anxiety is triggered by something very specific. This is advanced trauma triggers symptoms that look a lot like PTSD in humans. Phobias are excessive and persistent fear of a negative stimulus. Once a traumatizing event has been experienced, anything familiar to it or the memory of it can generate a response. Some examples can be fireworks setting off, owners yelling or hitting their cats, or being attacked by another cat or larger animal.

What You Can Do To Help

If your cat is going into an anxiety attack and has severe trauma, follow these steps:

  • Slowly get close to the ground, approach your cat gently and make yourself look less aggressive. Hopefully, your cat will be willing to come to you.
  • Pet your cat softly, letting your cat smell you first, and keep the tone of your voice soothing. Do not pick up your cat.
  • Watch for your cat’s responses to external stimuli to identify what may cause any more anxious behavior.
  • Repeat these steps the next time your cat has an episode.

Knowing how to soothe your cat correctly can help you make monumental strides forward in the long run.

You can help your cat by talking with your veterinarian to rule out medical complications. If your cat doesn’t do well with being separated from you, prepare your cat with small absences of your time and affection. Even if you are home with them, this space will help them become more comfortable with your silence and separation. Keep your arrivals and departures very low-key and relaxed as to keep them calm as well. Keep safe toys out for your cat to play with, especially while you are not home.

Find a committed, kind and sympathetic cat sitter; your cat sitter should engage in feeding, petting, and playing with your cat twice a day, and some sitters will even stay the nights with your cat to provide more regular interaction while you’re on a trip. Use catnip to help your cat de-stress and relax. The herb valerian will also help your cat relax, but too much of it will make your cat sleepy so it is important not to expose your cat to too much. Other scents you can use for your cat’s relaxation and reduce stress are chamomile, Bach’s Rescue Remedy, and hops.

Elanda-Isabella Atencio, our Feline Editor, is on her road to being a “crazy” cat lady. She has three cats; a moody Missus, a wild Baby Kitty, and notorious Fredrick Douglass. She was raised with cats, chickens, dogs, and geese. From cleaning coops, morning dog runs, picking eggs, to growing catnip, Elanda enjoys pampering her pets. Elanda is a student at New Mexico State University, earning her BA in Creative Writing and is Editor-in-Chief of the online arts journal, Independent Noise and reader for Puerto del Sol. She plans to move to Oregon, where she hopes to take her cats on daily walks when it’s overcast and cool. If you’d like to contact Elanda, email her at eincatencio@gmail.com.

Preparing Your Pets for Fall and Winter

You and your pet had a great summer. Many days were spent at the park, the beach, or camping in the wilderness. It has now come to an end and fall and winter are on their way. You’ve put away the camping gear and brought out your winter clothes. But what can you do for your pet? How can you prepare them for the change of seasons that are on the way? Read below to find out.

This kitty sure seems to be enjoying the cool weather and the colorful leaves.

Changes in Weather Patterns Can Affect Your Pets

Both dogs and cats can react strongly to changes in weather patterns. Many animals are sensitive to barometric pressure (the pressure of the earth’s atmosphere). If a storm is on the way and you have a sensitive pet, provide a safe place for them to hide. Put them in a kennel or crate in a quiet area of the house so they don’t panic and run away or injure themselves.

Your pet’s appetite may change during fall and wintertime. Dogs and cats often eat less during the summer months and increase their food intake during the colder months. When it is hot and humid outside, they may not feel like eating. During winter, the change in temperature and activity level may increase their appetite as an attempt to keep them warm.

The below is quoted from a research abstract on ScienceDaily.com.

“The study found that cats ate approximately 15% less food during summer, and the vets have concluded that the extra effort to keep warm in winter and the temptation to rest during hot summer days contributed to the swing in activity levels during the year.”

You can read the full article here: Cats Found to Eat More in Winter.

This little guy seems to have lots of energy to play in these cooler months!

It is also possible that your pet has an illness that is affecting their appetite, rather than the change in weather. If they are losing weight and don’t seem to be feeling well, you may want to take them to your veterinarian for a checkup. The issue could be a bad tooth that is causing pain when they eat, kidney or liver disease causing nausea, an infection, or even cancer.

To be prepared for any health issues that may befall your much-loved, four-legged family member during their lifetime, be sure to purchase pet insurance. For $30-$70 per month, you can assure that you will be able to provide any medical care that they may need in the event of an unexpected illness or accident.

Keeping Your Pet Comfortable

If you feel like snuggling up in a warm blanket, your pet most likely does too. And when you bundle up to go outdoors because it is bitter cold and windy, bundle up your pet. Unless they have a full, dense winter coat, they will be more comfortable with an extra layer on just like you are. A fleece pet sweater will help them enjoy going outside and help maintain their body temperature.

This article on VetStreet.com describes why some dog breeds do need to have sweaters or coats put on them during colder months: Do Any Dogs Really Need Sweaters or Coats?

In addition to giving them a warm, comfortable place to be during the day such as a well-insulated dog house with blankets, outdoor dogs (and cats) should be brought indoors at night.

Keep Up with Flea and Tick Prevention

Icy cold weather with five inches of rainfall does not necessarily eradicate all pests in the environment such as fleas and ticks. There may be not as many around to jump onto your dog or cat and take up residence in their skin and fur, but they can still be present and can infect your pet. Don’t start slacking on the flea and tick preventative during these months! There may be fewer bugs around, but they are never completely gone.

Piles of leaves are great places for these nasty critters to hide and wait for their next meal.

If You Get the Winter Blues, Your Pet May Be Affected Too

During the wintertime, some adults can experience mild to moderate depression. Called “Seasonal Affective Disorder,” it is believed that less hours of sunlight during the day lead to biochemical changes in the body that affect mood and behavior. You may become lethargic, unmotivated, have changes in appetite, and feel a lack of pleasure when doing things you used to enjoy.

If this happens to you, it may affect your pet as well. When you start lounging on the couch for hours on end instead of getting outside and doing things you normally do, your pet will notice the change in routine. This may cause them to experience a change in their normal behavior, too. In other words, they may start acting a little depressed.

Take care of yourself so you can take even better care of your pets. You deserve the best, and they do too!

PetMD.com describes depression in dogs this way: “Generally speaking, when we speak of a depressed dog we are referring to a dog who is exhibiting a change in behavior that manifests as decreased interest in normal activities or a change in interaction with his family.”

You can learn more here: Can Dogs Get Depressed?

To keep your pets happy even when you may not be, try to stick to a routine that they can count on and make sure to express affection like you normally do. That may boost your spirits a bit as well. Look forward to spring when both of you will most likely be back to your normal selves.

Enjoy Your Pet Year-Round

Above are some basic tips on how to prepare your pet for the cooler months beginning in September-October and lasting until May-June. You may need to increase their daily food intake and take extra care so they can stay warm and comfortable. Your daily patterns may change (fewer days at the local dog park and less time spent outdoors) but try to keep as consistent a routine as possible.

The best advice is to simply enjoy your pet. Lots of love and affection will help them adjust to changes in weather patterns at any time during the year.

Jayson Goetz is a writer from Phoenix, Arizona who loves pets! He is a proud owner of a beautiful puppy and wants to share the joy of pet ownership with others. He hopes to encourage people to keep their pets happy and healthy year-round.

Bringing Your New Horse Home: Tips For The First Time Owner  

So, after weeks, possibly months, of searching for your perfect equine partner, you have finally bought the horse of your dreams. Congratulations!

Becoming a horse owner for the very first time is tremendously exciting, but it can also be quite nerve racking. You are now responsible for all of your horse’s daily needs, requiring 100% commitment from you, seven days a week, in all weathers.

“Hey, I hear that you’re my new mom!”

Also, moving your new horse into another barn is likely going to be quite stressful for him, and time must be allowed for him to adjust and settle in. Think back to when you started school or a new job and how lost and awkward you felt. That is precisely how your horse will feel. Your horse will be in unfamiliar surroundings with unfamiliar faces, both equine and human, having left the security of his previous owner and stable mates behind, in a place that was once his home.

If you follow our tips, you will be fully prepared for your new arrival, and you can help your horse settle into a happy new life with you.

Before Your Horse Arrives

Before bringing your new horse home, you will need to organize a few things.

Stable

If you intend to board your new horse, you should reserve and pay a deposit for a stable at a suitable barn. You can either opt for full board, or provide everything yourself. This choice will depend on your circumstances and financial situation.

Find out which vets, farriers, and horse dentists the barn uses and ask for their contact numbers.  Also find out if an instructor is based there, or if you’re allowed one from outside of the facility.

If you are providing your horse’s bedding, then you will need to acquire wood shavings or straw from a supplier.

Equipment

Although you can buy things as you go along, you will need a few essential pieces of equipment before your horse arrives:

A saddle is a crucial piece of equipment for a new horse owner!

  1. Headcollar and lead-rope (it is a good idea to have a couple in case they break)
  2. Feed and water buckets
  3. Brushing boots
  4. Rugs (depending on time of year)
  5. Saddle and bridle: if your horse doesn’t have any, then you will need to arrange an appointment with a qualified saddle fitter. Ask around for recommendations.
  6. Grooming kit- this should include:
  • Body brush
  • Dandy brush
  • Water brush
  • Rubber curry comb
  • Metal curry comb
  • Mane comb
  • Hoof pick
  • Hoof oil and brush
  • Stable rubber
  • Sponges
  • Sweat scraper
  • Box to keep equipment in

7. First aid kit- this should include:

  • Bandages
  • Thermometer
  • Gauze pads
  • Antibiotic spray
  • Wound powder
  • A ready-to-use poultice, e.g. Animalintex
  • Cotton wool
  • Tweezers
  • Scissors
  • First aid box with telephone number of veterinarian

Feed and Hay

Find out what feed and hay your new horse is currently having along with any supplements. You may wish to switch to another brand of feed, but this should be changed gradually over seven to ten days to decrease the risk of colic.

Buy a couple of bags of his current feed and ask the previous owner if you can purchase one or two bales of hay so you can mix it with yours.

Transportation

If you don’t have a trailer, then you need to hire one to collect your horse. The barn may provide this or recommend someone who can do it for you. Make sure you buy or borrow travel boots to protect your horse during the journey.

A horse trailer is a good thing to have even after the initial move-in day.

Equine Insurance

It is essential that you have insurance for your new horse. With so many different policies available, it can be incredibly overwhelming for a new horse owner. Most owners choose an insurance plan that includes veterinary expenses, mortality, personal injury, and third-party liability. Contact equine insurance companies who can guide you toward the best policy for you and your horse.

Your Horse’s Health

Before you move your new horse from his current home, make sure he is in good health and that all his worming and vaccinations are up-to-date. Get a copy of his vaccine records, including a copy of the Coggins Test.

Find out from the previous owner what your horse’s usual routine is, so you can try and follow a similar pattern, helping him to settle more comfortably.

Prepare The Stable

If another horse was using the stable before your horse, ensure it was cleaned out completely and disinfected before placing your new bedding in it.

Provide a salt lick and use water buckets even if there is an automatic drinker so you can see how much your horse is drinking. Horses typically don’t like unfamiliar water, so make sure it is clean and fresh to encourage him to drink. If possible, ask the previous owner for the bucket that your horse was using before.

Arrival Of Your New Horse

Be prepared for your horse to be anxious and difficult to lead when he comes off the trailer. It may be better if someone more experienced with horses can handle him when he first arrives at the barn.

Remove his travel boots and put him in his stable with clean water and some hay, allowing him to take in his new surroundings. Make sure he can see the other horses in the barn, and expect a lot of whinnying!

It is best not to do much with your new horse for the first few days so he can have a chance to settle. Spend time gently grooming him so the two of you can start to bond. Brush him slowly and talk to him so your voice becomes familiar. You can also lead him around the grounds using a bridle for greater control.

Witnessing a bond being created between a horse and her owner.

Turnout

When turning your horse out for the first time, use boots on his legs for protection. Put him in a paddock adjacent to the other horses so he can safely get to know them and they can check out their newest companion. Keep an eye on him though, as horses can still kick and bite each other even with a fence dividing them.

Having time in the paddock will help him relax and get him accustomed to his surroundings. You should cut his feed down if he is not working so you don’t risk him having colic.

After a few days, it should be fine to turn him out with the herd, but make sure you are there to keep an eye on things as you don’t want any injuries either to your horse or others. After all, it is their very first time meeting without a fence dividing them.

Just a pair of friends meeting for the very first time.

Riding For The First Time

When you decide to ride your new horse for the first time, go slowly. You may even want to lunge beforehand to get rid of any excessive energy.

Ride in the arena the first few times and don’t ask too much of him. Just do some basic schooling and keep things simple. If you feel everything is going well with your horse after a few days, take him for a light ride. He may spook easily, so ask one of the other horse owners if they can ride with you for safety, and so you can learn the best routes.

If you take things slowly with your horse at the beginning, he will eventually settle. Depending on the animal’s personality and temperament, it can take a couple of weeks or up to six months.

Check that your horse is eating and drinking normally and consult your veterinarian if you have any concerns regarding his well-being.

Keep in contact with the previous owner. They will be pleased to know how your horse is doing and they can often advise you on his typical habits and behaviour if you have any doubts or concerns.

This horse is greatly enjoying getting to know his new owner.

Build healthy relationships with the other owners at the barn. That way you can help each other out with the care of each other’s horses, ride together, and seek their advice when needed.

If you can afford it, continue to take regular lessons with a good, qualified instructor so you and your horse can progress together and establish a partnership.

Most of all, enjoy the wonderful feeling of being a proud new horse owner!

Alison O’Callaghan, our Equine Editor, is a professional horse riding instructor and has owned many types of pets. When she is not riding horses or walking her dog, she loves to write about animals. If you’d like to contact Alison, you can email her at ocallaghan462@gmail.com. 

Surprising Benefits of Clipping Your Dog’s Nails Regularly

Even if you are one of the best dog owners, trimming your dog’s nails is one of those things that you can easily fall behind on. Since most dogs have nails that tend to grow fast like weeds, you will need to clip your dog’s nails regularly to keep up with the pace at which his nails are growing.

Many people tend to think that they don’t need to do anything if their dog’s nails aren’t curling around. You don’t have to wait for your dog’s nails to scratch your skin while he jumps on you to know that they need to be trimmed. Although it might seem like both you and your dog don’t want to deal with a nail trim, for the sake of your dog, clip those nails regularly to keep them short.

An example of beautifully short nails.

You may think that you can’t trim your dog’s nails due to a of lack of experience or the fear of over-cutting the nails. Well, that is something to be concerned about because you don’t want to hurt your dog’s nails to the point that they start bleeding. In the unfortunate event that your dog’s nails start bleeding while you are trimming them, you should learn how to stop your dog’s nails from bleeding to prevent excessive blood loss.

Doing so will save your dog’s life. The rule of thumb is: if you can’t trim your dog’s nails at home, it is good to seek professional assistance so that you don’t get the whole process wrong. Seeking professional help will also minimize the chances of doing the trial and error method on your dog’s precious nails.

How Often Should You Clip Your Dog’s Nails?

You might ask yourself, “How often is often enough?” There are some important factors that will affect how often your dog’s nails should get trimmed. These factors include: the type of surface that your dog walks on most of the time, your dog’s breed, and their diet.

Is your dog mostly indoors and just walking on your soft carpet? Does he only go outdoors within your compound to walk on the soft grass and dirt? Do you walk him in the streets on concrete surfaces? If your dog is always active and walks on hard surfaces, then he will need less frequent nail clipping sessions. This is because the hard surfaces will be grinding down on his nails. His nails won’t grow as fast or be very long. However, if your dog is mostly indoors or if he spends most of his time walking on soft surfaces like grass and dirt, he will most likely require more trims.

Your dog’s breed will also determine how frequently you will be trimming his nails. Some dog breeds have nails that will grow at very fast rates as compared to other dog breeds.

Thick, black nails are some of the hardest kinds to trim. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!

Your dog’s diet also affects the rate at which his nails will be growing. If you feed him a well-balanced diet that is full of minerals and vitamins, his nails will grow very fast. Keep in mind that this should never be an excuse for not feeding your dog on a well-balanced meal.

When it comes to how often you should trim your dog’s nails, you should be able to clip your pooch’s nails as often as possible so that his nails do not touch the ground when he is standing. If you clip your dog’s nails more often, there will be great benefits for both you and the dog. The more you will do it, the more your dog will become accustomed to having his nails clipped. If your dog becomes used to having his nails trimmed, you or the person that will be doing the clipping will have an easier time doing the nails.

Benefits of Clipping Your Dog’s Nails

Do you know that there is a relation between your dog’s nails and his health and comfort? There are several benefits of clipping your dog’s nails regularly and they include:

Comfort While Walking

The length of your dog’s nails determines how comfortable they will be while they are walking. If your dog’s nails are too long, they will touch the ground while your dog is standing. If you let your dog’s nails overgrow, you will not only have to deal with a cosmetic issue, you will also have to deal with a potentially serious health issue.

These pretty paws need to stay healthy to keep the whole dog healthy!

Dogs usually walk on their toes. This is called digitigrade walking. When their nails grow to be very long, the nails will curve and dig painfully into the pads of their paws. They will, therefore, have difficulty in walking on their toes because of the pain. Your dog will then rest his weight further back on his paw to compensate for this difficulty in walking.

The result of this change will cause an awkward posture while walking. This awkward gait will put a lot of pressure and strain on the joints and muscles of your dog. Your dog will develop joint pain and discomfort while he is walking due to this posture. He will also be less steady on his feet.

No Damage to Your Carpets and Bedding

If your dog’s nails are overgrown, you can expect him to claw your carpets, either on purpose or accidentally. This is because his long nails can get caught in the carpet. He will, therefore, rip or fray your carpet as he attempts to free his stuck claws.

When your dog is sleeping, his claws can also rip his bedding. If he jumps on your bed, you might need to consider replacing your bedding because his long claws can leave holes in your sheets and comforter.

We don’t want this carpet to get any more shaggy!

No Injuries to Your Dog’s Skin or Your Skin

When you come back from work, your dog is probably very excited to see you and, as a result, he will jump on you. If your dog has long nails, this can be quite unpleasant. His sharp nails might break your skin when he jumps up. He can also cause injuries to other people that come to your house, or accidentally hurt other pets while playing.

Your dog can also cause injuries to his own skin when he scratches himself. He can easily scratch himself bloody if his nails are too long. Armed with the best dog nail clippers, clipping your dog’s nails will protect his skin, and your skin, too!

Training Your Dog to Accept Getting His Nails Clipped       

Most dogs don’t like the idea of getting their nails clipped. If you have such a dog, you will probably have a hard time trying to make your dog sit still so that you can clip his nails. You will first have to get him used to nail clipping sessions. How can you achieve this?

Don’t dig in your heels if your pooch is anxious and is not tolerating you clipping his nails. You can take a break and maybe play with him for a while before you can resume your clipping session. With time, he will get used to it.

You can click here to watch this helpful video to help you train your dog to enjoy having his nails clipped.

If you start young, your pup won’t mind having their nails trimmed!

A Word of Caution

Care must be taken when clipping your dog’s nails. This is to avoid causing injuries on your dog’s toes. You will, therefore, need the best tips on how to clip dog nails so that the whole procedure is safe and smooth for your dog.

If you hurt your dog while clipping his nails, he is likely going to be fearful of having his nails clipped. He may not cooperate the next time you need to clip his nails. If you are not willing to clip your dog’s nails at home, you can take your dog to a veterinarian or a groomer. Your Pet Space now offers nail trims and bathing, so don’t hesitate to ask!

Cutting it Short

Getting your fur baby groomed on a regular basis is very important since it is beneficial to your dog’s health. One of the ways that you can groom your dog is by trimming his nails. Apart from aesthetic benefits, clipping your dog’s nails will ensure that your dog walks comfortably, and there will be no more click-click clicking when your dog is walking on hard surfaces!

Your carpet, bedding, and furniture will also be safe from damages, not forgetting that it will help protect your dog’s skin, and your skin too. You should, therefore, have a nail clipper nearby to clip your dog’s nails whenever they grow long. Good luck in clipping your dog’s nails!

Do you have something you wish to add on the benefits of clipping your dog’s nails? Do you have any questions? Let us know in the comment section below.

Joy Henderson: Hello everyone! I’m Joy and I really love dogs and would like to share all my knowledge fellow dog lovers like me. Please feel free to share your story with me at www.mypupmyhero.com.

10 Ways Owning A Pet Can Positively Affect Your Mental Health

Your mental health is not something that should be taken lightly.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a child, single adult, a family, or an elderly individual; owning a pet can positively affect your mental health in numerous ways. By owning fish, birds, rabbits, cats, or dogs, your mental health becomes affected by caring for them. Here are 10 ways that your pet positively affects your mental health.

Bonding

A bond created with a pet has a way of making you feel important. People that are prone to depression often disconnect from the outside world. Being bonded to a pet can help them feel less lonely. The bond is created by your pet’s dependency on you to meet their needs. This gives people the feeling of being needed and they understand the important role they play in their pet’s life.

Exercise

Some pets require outdoor exercise. Your brain releases “feel good” chemicals when you exercise. Walking or playing with your pet outdoors promotes this chemical release and leaves you with an all-over good feeling. Your also pet appreciates the exercise and a break from the normal routine! Their brain also releases the same type of chemicals when they exercise. When your pet is happy, it generally leads to you feeling the same way.

Getting into horse-back riding helps you feel better, gets you in better shape, and helps your form a bond with your horse.

Nurturing

When you get a pet that is young, you will have to nurture it into its adulthood and beyond. By giving your pet food and attention, you’re inadvertently sharing love and compassion. This positively affects your mental health. When you can give your time and love to a pet, you will often find that your mind isn’t as overwhelmed with life’s issues.

Play Time

All pets require play time (except maybe fish). Your pet can positively affect your mental health by allowing you to let go of stress and worry and just play. Watching your pet’s antics will make you laugh and relax after a hard day out in the human world. Owning a pet and participating in frequent play time can bring lots of joy into your life.

Isolation

Single people and the elderly who own pets typically find their furry friends to be great companions. Busy lives and old age can make people feel isolated. Owning a pet positively affects their mental health by making them feel less lonely. Knowing there is a pet at home waiting for them gives them a good reason to want to return home to their pet’s happy greetings.

Your pets literally have your back in times of crisis.

Feeling Purposeful

Kids and the elderly who are responsible for pet care may find a more purposeful meaning to their lives. Kids will learn responsibility, and the elderly or the empty nesters will once again have something to care for. Caring for animals positively affects mental health in those who have lost some hopefulness in life. Feeling purposeful can come from simply feeding a fish daily and cleaning its tank once a week. You understand that without your help, a pet can suffer or die.

Unconditional Love

Pets give us unconditional love, and this can positively affect your mental health. They are non-judgmental and generally happy to be around their people. Animals are loyal and will listen to our problems without issue. Animals can make you feel safe, secure, and loved without you having to meet much expectations from them.

The Here and Now

Owning a pet can positively affect your mental health by keeping you in the present moment. Pets have a way of distracting you from your problems, and they give you a reason to smile. This helps keep your mind off of life stresses and keeps your mind on what is necessary now. Sometimes all that is necessary is playtime followed by some cuddles.

You and your cat are a team working together to keep both of you happy and healthy.

Kids and Pets

Children not only learn responsibility from pet ownership, but they can also benefit from positive affects to their mental health. For instance, children with ADD or ADHD often have excess energy that is hard to manage. Running and playing with a pet can provide a natural outlet for the excessive energy that your child deals with. This can help bring some calmness into the home at times when things are usually out of control.

Therapy Animals

Numerous studies show that therapy animals help to positively affect your mental health. Therapy animals are often specially trained to provide a specific duty. For example, a seeing eye dog allows a blind person to venture outdoors more frequently. Without the guide of a therapy animal, they may feel isolated or alone in their world. They also might feel like they are too dependent on other people because there are things that they can’t do alone. Their guide dog can help them move forward in this difficult time and gain some independence and confidence. The pet also provides companionship, love, and loyalty.

There are more than 10 ways that pets can positively affect your mental health. We hope you enjoyed this basic breakdown of some ways that human mental health can be positively affected by owning a pet. Can you think of other ways that pets positively affect mental health? You can comment below and let us know how your pet has helped you get through life.

There’s a reason that dogs are called “man’s best friend.”

Matt Barnett is the creator of dogdogo.org, a small blog that’s focused on dog health, wellness, and training.

The Chemistry of Catnip

When you put catnip in a toy for your cats, or if you place some on the floor, or if you keep a fresh catnip plant near the window, your cats are going to go nuts for it. Your cats may exhibit several behaviors that are similar to how female cats react when they’re in heat. Your cats may sniff at it for a few minutes, rub their cheeks against corners, groom themselves, roll their bodies over it, or eat it. Not all cats respond to catnip the same way. Some will back away from it, and some cats appear unaffected by it. So let’s look at some facts about how catnip does (or doesn’t) affect our cats.

This little lady is loving a whole stem of catnip!

The History and Science

Originally called Nepeta Cataria, catnip is a perennial herb from the mint family. It is also related to other herbs like oregano, basil, and spearmint. The plant is indigenous to Europe and its effect on cats have been known and recorded since the 1700s. Due to it’s popularity, it now grows all over North America. Although it is widely known as a weed, there are roughly 250 species in the plant family that are popular in herb gardens. The oil Nepetalactone is an active ingredient that is found in the leaves of catnip. Humans can’t smell this oil, but it has a special scent to domestic cats and even to wild cats such as leopards, lions, and tigers. The plant also has other ingredients such as tannins, acids, and sterols which cause cats to get high from the oil Nepetalactone. This oil binds receptors inside a cat’s nose and this stimulates sensory neurons leading into cat’s brain. Thankfully, it isn’t addictive and it is completely harmless to cats. Nepetalactone is a stimulant, and when your cat sniffs catnip leaves or dried catnip, your cat gets high in a way that is similar to when humans take drugs. This effect usually lasts for about ten minutes. The plant also acts as a sedative as its initial effects wear off.

A bee feeding on a catnip plant.

The Catnip Response is Hereditary

What determines whether a cat will react to catnip is a genome which is inherited, or not inherited, at birth. When a kitten is three to four months of age (when they have become sexually mature) you will discover whether or not they react to catnip.

Cat’s Reaction to Catnip Can Dull Over Time

As a cat ages, their reaction to catnip can change, which means they might have a very subtle reaction to catnip, or no reaction at all. Your cat’s reaction (or lack thereof) can also be caused by being exposed to catnip too often, therefore triggering the loss of your cat’s ability to sense it. It’s recommended that you only give your cat catnip as a treat up to once a week. This means that you probably shouldn’t leave toys filled with catnip hanging around the house where your cats will have constant access.

Loving his catnip filled birdie!

Too Much For Males

When male cats are exposed to catnip, some become a bit too frisky and can even become aggressive with their owner or with other cats. This can create a pretty dramatic scene if you have multiple cats in your home and one happens to take on the persona of The Hulk. Keep in mind that this doesn’t always happen. Some cats drool, others become very playful, some get frisky, some get aggressive, others become extremely vocal, and some will just enjoy their experience. If you plan on give catnip to multiple cats, give it to them individually in separate rooms to avoid any issues.

You Can Use Catnip to Condition Behavior

Have you ever heard of positive and negative reinforcement? If not, don’t worry about it (unless you work in the health and social services fields). Psychologists determined that negative reinforcement towards children and pets such as spanking, yelling, using terms like, “You’re being bad” is more damaging to the behavioral health of pets and children. It is better to offer to your children and pets positive reinforcements, and this is done by praising good behavior by giving gifts or treats. If you have an aggressive cat in your multiple cat home, you can modify their behavior by providing them with catnip as a means of calming them. If you have a cat that is fearful, timid, or has experienced trauma, you can treat them with catnip as well. This can also be used to enforce personal playtime between you and your cat.

“This is the best prize ever!”

How to Grow Catnip

The common name for the the plant is “catmint” and it can be grown easily and in potted plants or a backyard. The plant can become up to three feet tall and three feet wide. Their rather small, white colored flowers grow in clusters on the plants and the stems have a squarish shape which naturally belong to the mint family. The plant needs sun and they are very drought-tolerant so if you live in the desert you can grow these plants without struggling. To start growing catnip, plant them in partial shade to and make sure to use alkaline soil in your potting plant or garden. If you are growing catnip in your home, try to keep it in a hanging basket from a ceiling hook so your cats can’t access it. If you’re growing the catnip in your garden, fence off this area of your garden so wild cats won’t be tempted to come and raid your garden. It is recommended that you pinch the stems of the plant while it’s growing to loosen the plant stem. When you begin harvesting, the plant must be flowering and dry. Cut off the whole plant at the base and hang it upside down in a dark, dry, well-ventilated place such as a pantry or an attic. Afterwards, store the dried leaves, stems, and flowers in a freezer bag to preserve the potency of the oil within the plant.

This kitty found the catnip plant outside!

Catnip for Humans

Catnip can be brewed to produce an herbal tea for human consumption. It is also used as a culinary herb for some dishes. It can be smoked, and it only has the effect of relaxation like other herbal cigarettes (otherwise known as tobacco-free cigarettes) such as corn silk, lemongrass, mint, cinnamon, and rose petals.

Don’t Want To Grow Catnip? Try Catnip Spray!

If you don’t want to deal with growing your own catnip plants, you can always purchase it at your local pet store, or purchase catnip spray. Catnip spray is made with concentrated catnip oil. The oil is steam-distilled from the catnip plant to produce very potent catnip oil. You can spray it on your cat’s toys, scratchers, cat condos, or their cat tree. KONG and Field Organic Catnip Spray are two of the best brands around.

Regardless for the reasons why you decided to use catnip or where you get it from, your cats will surely love you for it. Whether you give catnip toys to your new kitten, keep a small plant in your kitchen window, or provide your elderly cat with catnip to keep them comfortable, they will be very excited. Enjoy watching your cat roll around in bliss, and maybe can enjoy some catnip tea with them!

Elanda-Isabella Atencio, our Feline Editor, is on her road to being a “crazy” cat lady. She has three cats; a moody Missus, a wild Baby Kitty, and notorious Fredrick Douglass. She was raised with cats, chickens, dogs, and geese. From cleaning coops, morning dog runs, picking eggs, to growing catnip, Elanda enjoys pampering her pets. Elanda is a student at New Mexico State University, earning her BA in Creative Writing and is Editor-in-Chief of the online arts journal, Independent Noise and reader for Puerto del Sol. She plans to move to Oregon, where she hopes to take her cats on daily walks when it’s overcast and cool. If you’d like to contact Elanda, email her at eincatencio@gmail.com.